tv ABC7 News 1100PM ABC October 13, 2017 1:07am-1:42am PDT
quality of life. >> reporter: doctors gave them the option of terminating the pregnancy. did you ever have a moment where you thought, should we do this? >> i didn't. >> what was it that made you think, this is never an option to end this pregnancy? >> i feel it was my faith. >> we talked about it, like let's give them a chance. you know, if it's meant to be it's meant to be. >> reporter: after 33 weeks of pregnancy, the sandovals welcomed two baby girls into the world. erika rose and eva victoria. they are joined from the sternum all the way down to the pelvis, and they share a third leg. but they have two healthy hearts. >> you see them and they have tubes, they had the little covers over their eyes. they did ask us, you can't carry them, they're very fragile. you question yourself, are we doing the right thing? you talk to them, you say, you are strong. you're going to get through this. >> reporter: right from the start, they begin to defy the
odds. but because they need specialized treatment, they must spend the first few months of their lives in the neonatal intensive care unit. >> when those beautiful girls were born, that family was very scared. mom would stand over by the window with the bed many feet away, and we were just working with her to come over and to touch the girls and to know where she could put her hands in a place that wouldn't hurt them. >> reporter: finally, at 7 months old, the girls are deemed strong enough to go home to sacramento. despite aida's 24 years as a mother, nothing could have prepared her for this. >> this is her feeding. so we're giving her 8 ounces what is she's getting, erika. >> reporter: even the simplest of tasks like bath time, and putting on clothes, become an exercise in patience and creativity. >> so these were the little clothes that they wore. these were the little gowns that were made, trying to keep them
dressed. something cute is what i wanted to put on them. >> velcro is a godsend, right? >> right. >> reporter: like other kids they hit all their first milestones but they do so together. this is from their first words. >> nana! >> nana? up! >> up! >> reporter: to learning how to stand. >> very nice, i appreciate that. >> reporter: not wanting to leave their specialized care, they must make the nearly three-hour journey to palo alto regularly for checkups. even during those uncomfortable car rides. the girls remain upbeat. they begin to develop their own personalities. eva, the talkative one. erika, the observer. but eva also becomes stronger and larger than her sister, off
then drag, even throwing her around. over time, their health starts to decline. >> what's been the most trying time? >> all the utis. they're throwing up, they're dehydrated. >> eva. sister stay, don't bounce. >> the month of july, we were in the hospital practically the whole month. >> reporter: erika kept getting weaker and weaker. >> she was just basically getting smaller. eva was getting bigger. that was their point to say, we really have to do something about this. >> reporter: with concern mounting, the family and doctors decide they need to separate the 2-year-old girls now. were you able to explain to them at their age what was going to happen? >> i would always role play. when some magic's going to happen and dr. hartman is your magician. >> reporter: only 250 separation surgeries successfully performed in the world, doctors tell the sandovals there's a 30% chance one of the twins could die.
was there ever a part of you that thought this might not work? >> a very small part. knowing the girls, how much -- what they've gone through, they're fighters. >> reporter: it's finally the morning of the surgery. the twins are their usual bubbly selves. >> ready to go now. >> reporter: two hours later, when they arrive at the hospital, reality sets in for the sandovals. they place their faith in god. and their babies in the hands of this team of specialists. the nearly 50-person medical team begins with a prayer for guidance. >> we will work together, a prayer for strength. >> reporter: in a nearby room, the sandovals and dozens of family members join in. >> our father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. >> i felt a calmness come over me that it was going to be okay no matter what, what the outcome was.
>> reporter: after four hours of careful prep, it's now time to begin the separation. >> they've made the first incision. >> reporter: the surgeons' plan is to separate the organs of the chest first, then move down to the abdomen and finish with the pelvis. they're hoping that the twins' shared leg can be given to erika. as the hours pass, the doctors encounter a few surprises. >> erika's small intestine joined eva's small intestine just before the large intestine. >> is that a problem? >> actually, you can be fine with just small intestine. >> reporter: having overcome that challenge, they continue the delicate dance of dividing the girls' organs. >> they were able to give -- split the bladder, so they each have a bladder. >> reporter: every step a daunting task. one false move could spell disaster. >> the big challenge is then closing that wound. that's the real risky part. >> reporter: when we come back, aida and art are given difficult
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and then finally -- >> they're two now. >> reporter: the prayers of their parents art and 8 deaida answered. the twins successfully separated. but the work of dr. hartman and his team is far from over. >> it seems like the most dramatic piece of the procedure and people are all focused on that. but that's just like step 34 of 50 or 60 steps. >> reporter: the surgical team now faces a new hurdle. they realize they don't have enough skin to close the girls' wounds. so they turn to that once-shared leg they were hoping to give to erika. it's now needed for something more crucial, its skin tissue. >> they had told us earlier that they may have been able to use that third leg and give to it erika. but when it came down to it, there wasn't enough tissue to cover erika. >> that was really hard. you know, it's just like a punch
in the gut. >> reporter: but despite that setback, the rest of the surgery goes as planned. and after a total of 13 hours -- >> okay, we're good. >> reporter: the twins are wheeled into recovery. so tell me about the first time that you guys saw the girls after the surgery. >> i was excited just to know that they were alive still. just to know -- see them breathing. >> reporter: after spending their first six nights recovering in separate beds, the girls are reunited. in the weeks that follow, erika, the once-smaller twin, is now thriving. she makes tremendous progress at physical therapy. >> one, two, three! >> she has figured out with this
totally new body how to be really mobile really fast. >> reporter: but the road to recovery is not as easy for eva. >> eva. one -- two -- there so with eva she's had a lot of pain, also anxiety. so a lot of our sessions are focused on trying to get her in more of an upright position. >> do you want to go see eva? >> yeah. >> reporter: ever her sister's keeper, erika tries to comfort eva. >> it's okay, it's okay. >> reporter: through it all, aida is mostly parenting solo. >> i was working. i could be on the road all week. >> reporter: art, who's had to keep working full-time back at home to cover the medical
expenses, drives the three hours every weekend to visit her and the girls. >> i'll do what i have to do to make things work. it's our life. and we adjust to it. and we keep on going. >> reporter: the hospital becomes like home for the girls, who haven't been outside in two months. >> can you see the clouds moving? what do you see in the clouds? >> elephant. >> you see an elephant in the clouds? here we go. >> outside. >> outside. mama? >> i'm right here. look at sister. >> reporter: finally after three months in the hospital, a breath of fresh air. an ambulance, while often a sign of tragedy and fear, on this day is one of hope. >> all right! you made it! look at you. >> reporter: erika and eva are making the journey home to sacramento.
>> you ready to go? >> yeah. >> reporter: in the care of their local hospital, the girls continue physical therapy. >> hold on to your wheelchair. >> reporter: and are fitted for wheelcha wheelchairs. >> there you go, see? >> i just think it's amazing that we're at this point with them in their lives, you know. and feeling sick is not going to hold the other one back. >> reporter: now they're free to roam at home. >> i love it! >> reporter: where for the first time erika can go one way and eva can go the other. >> you guys play so nicely together. what is the best part in all of this? >> i love bringing them home and being a family. their smiles. >> reporter: mom and dad are settling into a new routine. >> here we go. bye, friends! >> reporter: with every scoop or step they surpass all expectations.
>> good job. you want to move your leg closer. >> reporter: no one was certain they would make it this far. >> this is actually the first that i've seen them both standing up like this. >> these girls are as healthy as they can be right now. they've gone way past what i thought they could do at this time. >> reporter: but they still have many challenges ahead. the girls have been on feeding tubes since birth and are just now getting used to eating solid foods. they're also not able to be fitted for prosthetic legs. but dr. hartman is hopeful that one day they can. >> yeah, we don't have a prosthesis right now that would work on a girl who has a complete pelvis, but nothing, no hip joint on that side. who knows what we're going to have in five years or ten years. >> you think walking is not out of the question? >> yeah, watching what they can do now, i think anything is possible. >> reporter: the girls are embracing their independence as typical toddlers full of curiosity and mischief.
>> somebody who was supposed to be taking a nap got down from her crib. >> reporter: but that connection they once shared, never far from memory. >> eva will see her, she goes, my sister was right here. yes, your sister was right there. we do talk about it. >> "she took my leg." >> she did say that, "she took my leg." where's your leg? "erika took it." >> reporter: after two years living as one, they're about to celebrate their 3rd birthday. their first as separate individuals. >> i'm going to be woody! >> reporter: at a party full of family and friends -- ♪ happy birthday to you >> reporter: the girls dress as woody and princess sofia. and even though they're on their own, in some ways they're still inseparable. >> i love watching them. they know that all these people are there and they're going to
play with them. whether they have a disability or not, it's just being with people and doing kid stuff. >> are you ready? >> go, go, come on, eva, go, go, go! >> reporter: the girls fiercely fighting to be just like any other kids. >> would you do it all over again? >> i would. >> yeah. maybe a little younger. >> i know that god won't give you something you can't handle. there is nothing that these girls can't do. they are fully capable of doing anything. >> reporter: for "nightline," i'm linsey davis in sacramento, california. >> our thanks to linsey. we'll be right back. ahhhh!!! they can fly...
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the ferocious flames threatening so many north bay communities. as we get a look at the devastation these fires left behind from above, tonight, "abc7 news" is learning about troubling allegations involving dozens of senior citizens who may have been left by staff as the flames moved in sunday night in santa rosa. >> a captain doesn't leave the ship unless he's the last one off and stepping off of it. >> good evening. i'm dan ashley. the death toll from the wildfires in northern california is up to 31 now, after the sheriff announced two more deaths in the county for a total of 17 in sonoma county. this is new video where flames are burning up to highway 29. the director of cal fire says every fire burning in the state has received an influx of new resources today, allowing many firefighters to get much-needed rest. tonight, a brother and sister who helped rescue dozens of elderly residents from santa
rosa sunday night are demanding to know where were the employees as the flames spread. melanie woodrow is live with troubling allegations tonight. melanie? >> reporter: dan, a spokesperson for the facility says that all 400 residents are safe. they're accounted for. but the grandchildren of one of those residents, who helped rescue 70 of them, is concerned that others may still be looking for their loved ones. that brother and sister we spoke with helped load those 70 elderly residents onto two of the buses you see behind me. these are pictures of flames devouring the oak mont senior living community on fountain grove parkway in santa rosa. 3:30 morning, audrey went to check on his grandfather. >> when i walked in and saw those people, i -- and the looks on their faces, i knew that i needed to be the answer.
>> reporter: he says there were two women in the lobby who he assumed were employees. he discovered his grand father wasn't in his room, but dozens of residents were in their rooms, many of them behind locked doors. back in the lobby, he says the two women he thinks were employees were now gone. he called his wife, who called 911. when the fire department arrived, he insisted the firefighters break down doors where they found more residents sleeping. >> the repeated question was, how come nobody told us that we were evacuating and from the fire department is where is the staff, where is the master key? >> reporter: in a statement, the management says -- >> we were not stopping anybody from helping save lives that night. we had not set up any road
blocks at the time or preventing anybody from coming in at the time. >> reporter: management says -- >> reporter: police called for two golden gate transit buses. driver david may. >> code free. >> reporter: with 70 residents waiting. >> some with walkers, wheelchair, and we started loading. i'm just glad i had the opportunity to help. >> reporter: he worries they didn't open every door in the main building. there were two other buildings that sustained smoke damage. his sister found their grandfather at a shelter. >> i said, papa, how did you get here? he said i left with the manager in his car. >> reporter: a huge effort was made. but why didn't nobody stay behind to ensure that everybody was evacuated? >> reporter: that's a question oak mont management group hasn't answered.
oak mont management group says it remained in contact with authorities throughout the night to make sure that all of its residents were safe. melanie woodrow, "abc7 news." >> melanie, thank you very much. the main priority is to make sure the tubs fire doesn't cross highway 29. this man walked his horse up to the freeway to evacuate, as flames burned close by. the firefighters have gained a small measure of containment. the entire town remains under a mandatory evacuation order. >> i love this city. i'm a transplant. i'll take ownership. but i've been here 2 1/2 years, and i'll be damned if i'm not going to save any one of those homes. >> the mayor says anyone who hasn't left is a distraction to first responders and will be on their own. an injured firefighter had to be lifted out of the atlas fire zone today.
the chp shared this video of their helicopter that took off to rescue the firefighter. he suffered a moderate head injury and had to be rushed to the hospital but is expected to make a full recovery. while hundreds of firefighters remain on the lines of the atlas fire in napa and sonoma county, tonight, some are getting much-needed breaks after 24 hours straight on the front lines. eric thomas is live at the napa county expo grounds where some of those firefighters are finally getting some food and sleep. eric? >> reporter: dan, several dozen of those firefighters are camped out a few hundred yards behind me. you can see the rigs are all parked here and they're getting reinforcements. we've seen new equipment arrive from davis, riverside, even a fresh dozer has come in. and they're going to need all these hands, whether they're newly arrived or already here.
there are still priorities before these weary firefighters can sleep. they have to park the rigs. make sure the tools are maintained and ready for the next day on the line. then they can grab a bite to eat and try to stay awake while gobbling it down. and only then can they -- >> get as much sheep as possible. >> reporter: justin just spent 36 straight hours fighting the atlas fire. here, they're assigned to individual shelters in which they can rest and recuperate. >> we have tents here, portable showers, what we call a mobile kitchen unit, feed them on site. so we're trying to get them as much rest and calories as we can. >> reporter: not only because the flames continue to threaten homes in the north bay, but also because the winds could pick up again this weekend, threatening the work that's already been done. >> with the winds, do what we can to establish and maintain the control lines that we do have. >> reporter: there are fire
trucks and firefighters from all over california in this camp, but it's still not enough. already, the intensity of the fire and shortage of resources have forced men and women to stay on the line longer than their normal 24-hour shift. and these firefighters wouldn't be surprised if that happens again. >> it's tiring. a lot of work. but got to love it. >> reporter: justin is one of the lucky ones. he's a guy that can fall asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow. they're going to be up early this morning, probably by 7:00, get something to eat, get their briefing and out of here by 8:00 and back on the fire lines. so yeah, it's been tiring. it's been dirty and hot, and there's still a lot of work ahead. eric thomas, "abc7 news." >> they have our admiration and gratitude. thanks so much. mandatory evacuation orders remain for parts of sonoma.
lisa is live from one cul-de-sac where some residents are refusing to leave. >> reporter: we're here on wilking way where four homeowners are staying put. they have a water truck and they have set up a lot of ladders. they're protecting this one house with a shaped shingle roof, because they're sure if it goes, their entire neighborhood will go down. the smoke and flames are less than two miles away from these homes. that's why they're not leaving, even though they're in a mandatory evacuation zone. >> i was a firefighter. i knew i could make a stand. we're not going to cut and run. this is my sandbox. i've done this for 30 years. >> reporter: the retired battalion firefighter chief got a backhoe to create more defensible space, and another neighbor just happened to have a